Until recently, I had no idea of who Marie Kondo was, what she did, or the ideals she preached. When her name come up in one of my conversations with my editor, I silently chided myself for being out of date with “contemporary issues” and launched an investigative mission immediately (thank God for Google).
As I scrolled through the results of my search, I quickly realised why I had not known her; you see given my personal and social reality, the principles she preached came as no news to me. For those who do not know, Marie Kondo is a Japanese organising consultant and author of international best-selling book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing“. She is best known for her trademarked KonMari method of organisation which essentially consists of gathering all of one’s belongings, a category at a time, and then choosing spaces for and keeping only those possessions that “spark joy”. The native word for this in Japanese is tokimeku, and it also means “flutter, throb, palpitate”. In January, she premiered her show “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo” on Netflix.
The first surprise had to do with the fact that there were so many people who needed help in putting their own houses in order; and that someone had attained celebrity status by more or less telling these persons what to keep and what to throw away. As I have often written, my society has a general tendency to hoard and not throw stuff away because here, many do not even have enough. But when we do have enough, deciding what to keep and what to give away becomes a question of practicality and common sense.
Right about now, you may begin to understand how I did not view the issue of keeping stuff or throwing stuff away as a big deal. You see, Marie Kondo’s show might have come as a surprise to me, but the concept of KonMari she preached was familiar to me, and has been practiced by many African families for very many years. I was raised not to undermine the critical roles played by my physical spaces in determining my mental and psychological wellbeing, so I could very easily understand how decluttering could spark joy in one’s daily life.
As Google and Facebook succeeded in cluttering my timeline with KonMari, I came to understand that much of the discussion on Marie Kondo was equal parts joy and outrage. The first stream of outrage was directed at Marie Kondo (and her concept of KonMari) and this “outrage club” is of the position that her show was a show of privilege. Many here opined that by telling people how to organize their homes, Kondo had committed the mortal sin of privilege by assuming that everyone could afford spacious homes where they would put things tidily away.
If I put on a pair of prescription lenses, and squint really hard, it is possible to see how this show might be offensive to people who at the moment cannot buy very spacious homes; in other words, people like me. The irony of the entire situation however, is that such outrage often come from people who live in some of the largest houses. Now I understand the idea of fighting for the ‘little’ guy, but it might do to enquire if the ‘little’ guy is actually offended before you launch an attack. The ‘little’ guy here might be unoffended because the size of his home is no excuse for untidiness, but no one asked him, right?
In the entire time I read through these arguments, at no point did anyone declare that they actually felt marginalized by the show and I believe that this just might be because nobody is. You see, people who live in small houses either really like their homes or live there in the hopes of moving into bigger spaces when they can afford one. Therefore, to insist that Marie Kondo end her show because it ‘might’ offend people (who themselves would love to live in bigger houses while being content at the moment in their small spaces) is at best misguided and at worst downright unreasonable.
The second stream of outrage was directed at what came out of the show. You see, in an episode of the show, Kondo advised a couple she was assisting to declutter their homes either by throwing away any books that they had already read, books they hadn’t read or any book that no longer “sparked joy” in their lives. Critics and self-acclaimed book lovers latched onto this piece of advice with flaring nostrils at Kondo’s temerity in urging people to throw away their used books.
Related Post: 5 Ethical Fashion Books Newbies Must Read
Now I agree that books are the keepers of civilization. I’ve been reading all my life and at the moment, I’m down to about three to four books a week. Some books I give away after reading, but there are some others I read and save to revisit again; the ones that still spark joy in my life. To express fear or outrage at someone else’s promptings that I get rid of the books in my own library would be a direct mockery of all I have garnered from my books over the years because in the first place; it is up to me to decide whether to and how best to declutter my home. In the second place, I have no right to be pleased by everyone else’s viewpoints.
In fact, by assuming that they have the right to be pleased by the views expressed by others as it relates to books, or pretty much anything else for that matter, this club of angry booklovers make a show of entitlement and privilege of the worst kind. This is once more a reflection of the burgeoning culture of outrage that we have seen in recent years. Now I am fully in support of expressing outrage at deserving issues but to claim some kind of moral outrage for advice given by a woman, on her own show, to grown adults who invited her into their own home is not any reasonable person’s idea of a deserving cause.
When we willfully decide to misinterpret and misunderstand a person so as to claim outrage, we stoke the flames of a new social low that points to a deeper issue; that we live in a society that preaches to ‘Be yourself, but not like that’. An age that increasingly cedes more power to the screen and amongst brilliant people who feel threatened by comments about how they should live in their own homes, off their own TV screens.
There isn’t a problem here that public outrage can fix; the concerns raised are issues of individual reasonability and common sense.
We recommend reading this next: Eco Gentrification: Is The Green Living Movement Being Whitewashed?
- The Japanese Concept of ‘Mottainai’ Teaches Valuable Lessons on Slow Fashion and Waste Avoidance
- How My Trip to Kainji Lake National Park Taught Powerful Lessons on Voluntary Simplicity
- The Art of Slow Living: Chasing Less, Living More
- Individuals in the Developed World Consume More of the Earth’s Resources. Here’s How to Consume Less…
- 13 Minimalist, Zero Waste and Eco-Friendly Lifestyle Challenges If You’re Keen to Live More Sustainably
Title image: KonMari.